After a week spent largely away from civilization, my ears are finally filling with the sounds of the inimitable Nanci Griffith's beautiful voice singing "Once in a Very Blue Moon." Nanci passed away this week, too soon for all of us who loved her music, although she's been retired from performing for a few years now. It's been a few years since I spent any time with her songs - the last time I saw her might have been at the Kerrville Folk Festival a lot of years ago. But I'm revisiting her tour de force live recording One Fair Summer Evening as I write this, and I'm remembering now how much I learned about being a performing songwriter and storyteller.
My grad school housemate Don is probably as entirely responsible for my career as a singer/songwriter as anyone, because it was when he moved in with me for my last year that he introduced my rock and roll ears to the likes of Nanci, and Shawn Colvin, John Gorka and other "folk" singer/songwriters. Until then I had never really contemplated the possibilities of one voice, one guitar. Nanci came through and played at UMass that year, and we caught her show. Looking back on it now, that year changed my life, even as I was readying for a career in environmental engineering.
I see it clearly now - the line from the gifts given by Nanci Griffith all those years ago to the musical life with which I have been blessed. For whether I think of her directly or not, in my own way I aspire to be as good a storyteller and songcrafter. I am sad that the beautiful light has gone out, and I am filled with gratitude for the gifts of inspiration she has left - not just for me, but for aspiring songwriters everywhere.
Even on this stormy mid-Atlantic night, my soul is in Texas on a stage I've graced many times, at Houston's legendary Anderson Fair. But tonight I'm in the audience, with a drink in hand, mesmerized by what I'm hearing and experiencing. And I am grateful that tonight is indeed a fair summer evening.
Rest in paradise Nanci.